Nerite snails form an essential part of an aquarists algae eating arsenal. Small and undemanding, they come in a large range of shapes, colours and patterns, making them suitable for just about every tank.
It’s cool that one species has so much variation!
Actually we’ve kind of cheated here. Nerite snails are made up of many different species in the family Neritidae. The most commonly kept species come from the Neritina, Clithon and Vittina genera. Together they are collectively called nerite snails in the hobby and are usually talked about together as they have similar care requirements.
A black and gold Clithon snail resting on top of a piece of driftwood.
A different Clithon species eating algae off a java fern leaf.
How warm do they like it?
Nerites seem to tolerate quite a wide range of temperatures. They’ll definitely be comfortable in water between 22-29C.
How do I keep their shells healthy?
As with all snails, it’s important they are not kept in acidic water to prevent shell erosion. They will do well in tanks with pH of at least 7. They also prefer harder water which helps their shells grow well. If your water isn’t that hard or you have lots of animals with calcium requirements, you can add crushed coral or cuttlefish bone as a supplement.
A zebra nerite (Neritina natalensis) snail with some shell erosion. The white pitting towards the end of the shell is indicative of erosion caused by low pH acidic water.
How many of them can I have?
Nerite snails vary in size from very small species (1cm) to some larger ones (3cm). Usually the limiting factor for keeping nerites is not the size but the amount of food available. The types of algae they like to eat grow on flat surfaces like aquarium glass, rocks or leaves of large plants. The more of this you have, the more food there will be to support the snails. For smaller species like horned nerites (Clithon corona) and olive nerites (Neritina reclivata) you’ll want to have about 1 nerite per 15 litres but with more surface area you can support 1 per 10 litres. For larger species like zebra nerites (Neritina natalensis) or tiger nerites (Neritina semiconica) 1 per 25 litres is better.
Who do they get along with?
These snails are very slow and peaceful and won’t bother other tankmates. Most fish won’t bother them either, even fish known to nip at bigger snails like bettas rarely have an issue sharing a tank with nerites. Needless to say, you should avoid snail eating species like puffers, loaches, bigger cichlids, goldfish and snail eating invertebrates.
You said they eat algae. That’s great, I hate algae and I have a lot of it!
Nerites are great at cleaning algae, one of the best in the hobby at it but they aren’t suitable for every job. They crawl along surfaces slowly using their radula to scrape algae. This means they are only capable of eating flat type algae but are one of the few options for tackling very hard algae. They’ll be great at cleaning diatoms (brown algae), green spot algae and short hair algae. Some Clithon species have also been known to eat black beard algae. They’re also only able to eat from flat, hard surfaces like aquarium walls, hardscape and large plant leaves.
A tiger nerite snail (Neritina semiconica) grazing on some green algae growing on a rock.
Should I also feed them?
Nerite snails are all wild caught and unfortunately rarely accept any food. Sometimes zebra nerites may eat cucumber or algae wafers but it’s still pretty uncommon. To see if your nerite is getting enough food, you can check the size of it’s foot. A well fed nerite should have a large foot that extends well outside the opening. A starved nerite will have a smaller foot that just about or doesn’t even fully cover their opening.
Is my snail a boy or a girl… or both?
Nerite snails have distinct sexes but there’s no good way to tell them apart. The primary way to know is to just observe a female laying eggs. Their eggs are white, small, hard and oval-shaped, looking very much like a sesame seed.
Wait eggs? I don’t want to be overrun with snails!
Don’t worry, one of the reasons nerites are so popular is because they can’t reproduce in our freshwater tanks! Those ‘eggs’ you see are actually a capsule that holds the eggs inside - the real eggs are microscopic. In nature, when they are exposed to brackish water, the eggs hatch into planktonic larvae which float out to sea. They live there feeding on phytoplankton whilst going through several life stages. Eventually they find their way back to brackish water and metamorphose into a juvenile snail. Needless to say, this is virtually impossible to recreate in captivity.
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